​The competitive world of eSports

How video games became a spectator sport 08:15

That so many of us give and receive -- and PLAY -- video games this time of year is hardly news. The fact that so many of us will leave the house to watch OTHER people play video games is something else again. Our Cover Story is reported now by John Blackstone:

In Anaheim, Calif., 5,500 excited fans cheered and gasped, watching on a giant screen as two players battled for the world championship of the video game Starcraft II.

"It's like the Super Bowl for us," said Lauren Mihalus.

At Chicago's Ignite Gaming Lounge, crowds lined up before midnight, not to play video games, but to watch the League of Legends world championship being played half-a-world away, in South Korea.

"It's the only sport I watch!" said Daneta Debialowicz.

And in Seoul more than 40,000 people packed into a stadium to watch the games live. It was in South Korea that video game competitions, called eSports, first exploded as spectator sports.

"I'd go there and they'd have these huge ballrooms, all these young people all excited about these young players that were becoming celebrities," said Paul Sams. He's the COO of Blizzard, the company that created Starcraft, the game that launched esports in Korea and made stars of the best players.

"And you're like, 'Who? What? This is crazy! These people are following all these young kids that are playing videogames, and they've got these huge followings, and they're signing autographs.' And it became really evident to us that this was the beginning of something big."

But would this Asian phenomenon translate to America? Last year, the League of Legends championship was held in Los Angeles at the home of the L.A. Lakers. It was a sellout.

"I think I'm too old to understand what's going on in online gaming right now," said Blackstone to Michael Pachter, who studies the video game industry as a research analyst at Wedbush Securities.

To which Pachter replied, "You probably are."

"I can understand people watching a golf game," said Blackstone. "I can't understand people watching somebody play a computer game."

"Well, I have to say, my wife can't understand people watching a golf game, because she's not a golfer," said Pachter. "So if you're not a gamer, that's not gonna appeal to you.

"When you're into something -- like a game like League of Legends, which has 93 million monthly unique players -- there are a lot of people among those 93 million who want to watch the best people in the world playing the game."

The company that makes League of Legends says that 27 million people watched this year's championship. To put that into perspective, the World Series, which started later that same week, averaged just under 14 million viewers.

Video games now bring in $71 billion in annual revenue -- more than the music business, and fast catching up to Hollywood.